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Start up business entrepreneur Catherine Lyon hit a brick wall when she asked her local bank for a loan to buy equipment for her new beauty salon.
With no credit or trading history the bank refused to take a risk on the 29-year-old businesswoman from Eccleston, St Helens.
Now with help from St Helens Credit Union her Aphrodite Beauty Salon in Station Road, Garswood, is flourishing.
“Because I hadn’t had a business before the bank just said ‘No’ when I asked for a £2,000 loan. My business advisor at St Helens Chamber of Commerce said I should approach the Credit Union and they were happy to help,” said Catherine, who set up her salon after working for a number of beauty businesses as an award-winning therapist.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do but never really got round to it until my son was old enough to go to secondary school,” she added.
Catherine saved up enough cash to launch her business last August but soon realised she needed to have more equipment to compete against more established firms.
“I wanted to offer customers spray tanning to complement the other beauty treatments on offer. I decided on the St Tropez system, because I believe it’s the best and is used by celebrities and those who want a natural and safe tan,” said Catherine.
Borrowing the money was a straightforward process. Catherine initially set up a savings account with the Credit Union which entitled her to membership benefits, one of which was access to the Union’s loan services. After demonstrating she was making regular payments into the account they were able to process her loan application.
“Everyone was really helpful and efficient and the money was in my bank very quickly. I’m paying the loan back from the money I’m generating from new business,” she added.
St Helens Credit Union is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year during which time it has offered a cost effective and affordable alternative to lenders on the high street or high interest loan sharks.
Members of the Credit Union make regular payments into a range of savings accounts – this fund then provides the basis for preferential rate loans.
Only those who live, work, volunteer or go to school/college in St Helens can become members.
Pam Moorst of the Credit Union said: “Our credit union lets people in the community come together to save ethically and to borrow money at competitive rates, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis, with surpluses being returned to members.
For Catherine it provided her fledgling business with the boost it needed.
“We are getting busier every week which is great. I think it’s because we offer something different than other salons in that we are totally flexible about fitting in around customer requirements. If people want to come to the salon after work or they want us to come to them, as we did during the heavy snows, to offer treatments we’re happy to oblige,” said Catherine, who offers treatments from as little as £5.
“The Credit Union was brilliant and as soon as this loan is paid off I’ll be going back to fund some ideas I have for growing the services and the treatments we offer,” she added.
Ann Holcroft of St Helens Chamber said start up businesses often found it difficult to find financial support from high street banks.
“The Credit Union is a trustworthy, professional alternative for those who need to borrow cash at affordable repayment rates. Members savings are protected by financial regulators, so they are just as safe as any bank or building society and the loans are tailored to the businesses needs and finances. Often these short term loans can mean to difference between a business failing or expanding and prospering in the future.”